It’s hard to talk about a silver lining behind the Carolina Panther’s 40-7 thumping in Seattle. But look closely enough and you just might see it – namely in the maturation of one Cam Newton.
In his post-game interview, Newton, who I have criticized in the past for being sulky, stood before the assembled press corps and faced the awful music. Every note of it.
He fielded questions about his play on the field (which wasn’t very inspired.) And he fielded questions about the dress-code violation that got him suspended for what turned out to be one (very important) play, which led to a Seattle touchdown.
If ever Newton had reason to sulk, Sunday was that occasion. His team had just been humiliated in a game that started with him – the league’s reigning MVP – watching from the sideline. It was a public scolding if ever there was one.
In talking with reporters, Newton said Coach Ron Rivera had pulled him as starter because, contrary to Rivera’s rule, Newton did not wear a tie while traveling with the team.
“It came down to a dress code matter,” he said. “I didn’t follow dress code and coach told me I wasn’t going to start. I stand by his decision.”
The Panthers played at Oakland last week and, rather than traveling back to Charlotte, the team decided to practice on the West Coast in preparation for Seattle. Newton said he typically has proper attire for traveling but shipped his traveling clothes (including his dress shirts and ties) to Seattle along with the team’s gear.
Rivera was unimpressed.
Assuming we know all there is to know about Newton and his propensity for following team rules, not wearing a tie might seem like a penny ante reason to pull your star quarterback. But never once did Newton throw shade at his coach.
“…We didn’t lose this game because I didn’t have a tie,” Newton said.
Sports fans will debate for days whether Rivera made the right call, but few can question Newton’s stand-up response to Sunday’s adversity.
Could it be that we are finally seeing Newton gain some measure of control over the six inches of turf that lies between his two ears – the most important six inches any competitor must master?